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  • Mark DuPont

Active Shooter Incidents (ASI) in the Maritime Domain? Part 2

After the questions posed in last week's blog, it was encouraging to hear from those of you who have looked at your maritime domain, and addressed this particular area of responsibility. But for many of you, these questions remain: What are your areas of concern in your maritime area of operations as it relates to an ASI ? What are you not prepared for? What do you need to address, plan for, train for and practice? If you have done some training and preparedness, when was the last time you practiced it?

For those of you still looking for some of those answers, let me provide some potential solution pathways.

In designing training and developing scenarios for maritime engagements, we need to consider some facts and background. We need to recognize some of the statistics and data looking at 179 events from 2000-2014 regarding Active Shooter Incidents (ASI). Even though this environment is evolving, here is what we know;

a.) 90% of the incidents are over in less than 15 minutes

b.) In 57% of the incidents, a pistol is used

c.) In 99% of the time, it’s a single shooter

d.) In nearly half the incidents (48%), the shooter had to be stopped

e.) If LE arrives while the attack is occurring, the officer(s) will need to subdue or shoot the attacker 2 out of 3 times

What we also know is how people are dying in these incidents. From the US Army, we know that hemorrhaging is the leading cause of fatalities in combat (85%). Domestically, a collaborative group of federal law enforcement, trauma surgeons, and emergency responders participated in a panel discussion during the Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) in 2013. They confirmed that the leading cause of preventable death in these shooting incidents was uncontrolled bleeding. Called the Hartford Consensus, the group Issued a Call to Action to Reduce Death Toll Among U.S. Mass-Casualty Victims. (You can read the whole article by clicking on the link.)

We've also seen what can happen when doctors apply what they have learned from the battlefield. (See the article, How Doctors Save Lives After a Mass Shooting.) This is why the national mantra as it relates to ASI response is now: 1.) Stop the Killing, 2.) Stop the Dying.

I share all that information so that we can look at how all this applies in the maritime domain. Here is the key point: in an ASI on the water (just like land-side), a single officer on patrol is likely to be the first on scene. No surprise there.

We know this from our long history of maritime Search and Rescue cases. Year in and year out. it's the State & Local Law Enforcement/Emergency Responders who get there first, as reported by the Coast Guard. And depending on others who may be on patrol in the area at the time, that first officer is joined by a couple of other officers/deputies/CG personnel relatively quickly.

Why is all this relevant to the discussion? That first responding officer(s) is who is going to go “over the rail” to mitigate the threat, and therefore, ALL patrol officers must be taught the basics of ASI response. They must also be taught direct threat medical care of the injured. The more patrol officers we train, the more we enhance our abilities across the country to mitigate the threat and save lives, when this type of event happens on our waterways.

Assuming that we are doing a good job training our maritime patrol officers, what's next? After they have gone over the rail and eliminated the threat (or at least established a warm zone), what do we do about the people that are now in need of immediate care? Although we may be doing a good job with some tactical training on the water, what have we done to integrate the medical personnel so that we can save lives and stop the dying? How do we get these medical folks out to the boat, and how do we transport the critically injured to an ambulance pick-up point? The takeaway here: We need to train the EMS/Fire personnel who are going to be coming right behind the LE response in the form of Rescue Task Forces, and we need to train supervisors/managers on how to work with each other in that response plan.

A tactical team response may be necessary after the initial event, or if the situation changes into a barricaded suspect with or without hostages. I am not downplaying their importance nor their need for preparedness, but I am focusing on training for what is most likely. (A principle I have incorporated for a couple of decades.)

Training the tactical team comes after we train the people who work on board the ship first, the responding patrol officers second, the EMS/Fire folks third (Rescue Task Force) third. Sprinkle in some integrated leadership tabletop type training and then we train the tactical guys/gals. That would ensure that we are truly ready for a maritime ASI.

So the right approach to addressing this threat in the maritime space should include the following:

1. Assessment of AS Risks, Vulnerabilities, Policies and Procedures of maritime transportation resources in the area of responsibility or region.

2. Needs assessment of LE and ER maritime agencies/resources in the region with regard to AS policies, protocols, procedures and training, as well as integrated maritime operations. Remember, just because they do it well on land doesn't mean that it will translate well on the water.

3. AS Training of ALL Patrol Officers in Basic Tactics.

4. AS training for crews and ship/vessel personnel. The Marathon Bombing event and the shooting in Las Vegas showed us how staff members and civilians can be the best tool to use during an ASI to save lives. Training them not only protects them and increases their chance of survival, it also can affect and save the passengers all around them.

5. AS Integrated Response training for LE, EMS and Fire personnel. As stated before, just because they work well together on land doesn't mean that it will translate well on the water. There are a lot of other variables that supervisors, leaders and chiefs may not be aware of, if they haven't trained and practiced for it. The same is true for the marine patrol officers. If they haven't worked together in a Rescue Task Force framework, they won't know how to do it when the incident strikes.

6. AS training for tactical teams. Last but not least, the teams need to be trained on and in the maritime environment, too. Although this is often the first place LE agencies look to do ASI training, the others up above should come first.

Note that not every department or region will need all of those things, but it’s a good checklist to make sure the focus and attention to the maritime threats are accurate, on point and relevant to the environment and needs of the time.

One last point and building off of the ones made above. In partnership with Louisiana State University’s NCBRT/Academy for Counter-Terrorism Education, you may consider having one or more of the nationally recognized and DHS/FEMA funded courses like the Critical Decision Making for Complex Coordinated Attacks (CCA), the Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response Course (LASER) and an Active Threat Integrated Response Course (ATIRC). Through our relationship with LSU, we can help coordinate and inquire as to the availability of training for your region/area (with specific maritime application), if it hasn’t been there already. The NMLEA can also tailor customized training or exercise programs for departments or regions, using the best practices recognized throughout the country.

In closing, the best approach to prepare for a threat to your maritime environment is to have an effective plan for your area. With a little more discussion with you about your specific needs, we can apply the right solution based on best practices that we utilize in all of our services.

The bottom line: Let's take action to enhance the safety and security of our Nation's waterways, by preparing the professionals that patrol them.

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